Depression, a mental illness that causes feelings of sadness, guilt, and hopelessness, affects nearly 6.7% of all Americans – that’s a whopping 16.1 million people!1 The number of people diagnosed with depression continues to rise, thanks in part to our sedentary lifestyles. Fortunately, research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medications in the treatment of depression.2
Exercise helps prevent and treat symptoms of depression in a variety of ways. To begin with, exercise releases endorphins, your body’s “feel good” hormones.2 Endorphins improve mood and interact with brain receptors to reduce aches and pains – a common symptom of depression.1,3 More blood and oxygen is also released to your brain during physical activity, making you feel more optimistic and clear-headed. Additionally, scientists have discovered that many depression sufferers have a smaller hippocampus, an area of the brain that helps regulate mood.2 Regular physical activity causes cell growth and connection in the brain, leading to a larger and happier hippocampus.2 Lastly, exercise is a great way to release stress, distract your mind, and connect with others, leading to a better attitude and quality of life.
If you’re struggling with depression, starting an exercise program can seem impossible. Fortunately, a new study has shown that even one hour of exercise per week can help prevent depression! The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, analyzed 33,908 Norwegian adults for 11 years.5 Their activity levels and symptoms of depression were closely monitored. The study found that inactive people had a 44% higher chance of developing depression than those who exercised one to two hours per week.5 Even better, the benefits of a little exercise were seen in all ages and genders.
Even small amounts of exercise can impact your mood and help prevent depression. So, what are we all waiting for? Lace up your shoes and get moving – VHP will be right there with you! A better mood is waiting for you.
- Major Depression Among Adults. National Institute of Mental Health website. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml. Accessed October 4, 2017.
- Exercise is an All-Natural Treatment to Fight Depression. Harvard Health Publishing website. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression. Published August 2013. Accessed October 4, 2017.
- Exercise and Depression. WebMD website. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1. Accessed October 4, 2017.
- Exercise for Depression. National Health Service website. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/exercise-for-depression.aspx. Reviewed June 1, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2017.
- Samuel B. Harvey, Simon Øverland, Stephani L. Hatch, Simon Wessely, Arnstein Mykletun, Matthew Hotopf. Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2017; appi.ajp.2017.1 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223